“Are you a member of our Loyalty Program?” It seems that everywhere I shop, those are almost the first words out of the cashier’s mouth, right after “Did you find everything you were looking for?”. First it was the coffee shop with punch cards and free drinks. Then the grocery store, with special members-only discounts on everything. Then the drug store. And the hardware store. And the auto parts store. And the liquor store. So what about you? Are you ready to start a Loyalty Program for your eCommerce business?

Why Should You Start a Loyalty Program for your eCommerce Business?

The typical way to look at Loyalty Programs is from the customer’s point of view. They give out their phone number or email address and squeeze another card into their wallet, because they get to save money in return. Of course the business gets something out of the deal as well. Here are just a few of the ways that a Loyalty Program can help any business, including yours:

  1. Encourage Repeat Purchases
    As the saying goes, the best customer is the one you already have. Depending on the type of product you sell this could be a big source of recurring revenue. You could use the punch card model and offer a free item after a number of purchases, or if your products are daily consumables you could enroll members in a discounted subscription program where they are automatically billed for regular shipments.
  2. Get More Referral-Based Business
    This is how the cloud storage service Dropbox fueled its early growth. Early adopters got a referral link, and got more space in their account for every new customer who signed up using their link. Dropbox put a limit on how many referrals a customer could give out, but you could give people unlimited referrals, or let them “recharge” by getting a new set of referral links every time they spend a certain amount at your store.
  3. Learn More About Your Customers
    If you have a loyalty card at your local supermarket, you probably use it every time just in case something is on sale, right? That’s what the store is counting on, because then they can track every single thing you buy. They use that data to help them fine tune their product mix to focus on best-sellers, and to give you targeted coupons that encourage you to come back. Does that sound like something your business could benefit from? I thought so!
  4. Build Your Social Media Following
    The most obvious model here is the standard trade of a follow for a discount. Those are great, but what’s even more powerful is to get your customers to share their purchases on their own accounts, which gets your products into the news feeds of people in your targeted market without spending a cent on ads.
  5. Grow Your Email List
    Email is old school but it’s still the MVP for keeping in touch with your customers. People will welcome you into their inboxes, and make sure your messages don’t go to spam if you offer them something valuable in return. And once you’re in you don’t have to worry about losing your audience every time the social media heavies change up their algorithms again.

Making Your Loyalty Program Worth It for Your Customers

Hopefully your head is full of the opportunities that a Loyalty Program could give your business, but hold your horses—you need members first! The big question your customers will ask when you roll out your Loyalty Program is “What’s in it for me?” You might already have some things in mind, but if you don’t here are a few examples:

  1. Fixed Discount for Members
    This is the most straightforward and perhaps least exciting membership incentive. On the plus side it’s easy to understand and easy to implement, but it’s also limited in its benefits to the store owner. There’s no incentive to the customer to buy more often or bring in referral traffic.
  2. Free Shipping
    As with a fixed discount, free shipping alone isn’t enough to build a strong Loyalty Program, but it is an excellent way of convincing people to sign up in the first place. Whether and how to offer free shipping is another article in itself, but for better or worse it’s something that customers are beginning to expect. Keeping it exclusive to members can help you subsidize the cost with the shipping and handling fees you charge non-members and with the increased business your Loyalty Program generates.
  3. Exclusive Sales
    This is an alternative to a fixed Members’ Discount that helps you keep your members engaged with you on social media or your email list. By reserving these special prices to people who follow you or who have signed up for your email list, you offer an incentive for continued membership and discourage people from unsubscribing or unfollowing as soon as they get their initial benefit.
  4. Exclusive Products
    Taking the idea behind Exclusive Sales one step further, offering your Loyalty Program Members access to exclusive products can develop some serious buzz around your business. And don’t assume that your product isn’t cool enough to warrant a limited release. The very fact that a product is a limited edition, available only to members, is enough to create demand—remember Beanie Babies?
  5. Early Access
    If you run a seasonal business or release new product lines throughout the year, releasing them to your Loyalty Program members first is another great way of saying “thank you”. Make sure to announce the new products to everyone in your social media audience to let them know that they are coming—and that Loyalty Program members will get to order them first! This can give you a big bump in membership signups each time you release a new product line.

Tools to Help You Start a Loyalty Program for WooCommerce and Shopify

Unlike some tasks where there is a “best” solution or product, there are many ways to start a Loyalty Program using many different tools and services.

For example, if all you want to do is reward people with a discount for subscribing to your email list, you can use a service like MailChimp along with WooCommerce or Shopify’s built-in tools for creating coupon or discount codes.

On the other hand, if you want to start a Loyalty Program with multiple levels of discounts depending on how much customers spend over time, or if you want to automatically send referral codes to people who share your social media posts, you’ll need some tools designed for that purpose.

Picking the right service, plugin, or app to build your Loyalty Program is a topic I’ll be writing an entire article about soon (subscribe to the dbdc email list and you’ll be the first to know when I publish it). If you want to get a head start, you can look at SumoMe, Gratisfaction, and Beans, which all offer integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce, and your favorite email marketing platform. Just remember to stay focused on the features you need for your own specific Loyalty Program so that you don’t get overwhelmed by their enormous feature lists!

When you start a Loyalty Program for your business it turns your marketing into a long term, sustainable, and strategic method for customer acquisition, customer retention, and more sales. A Loyalty Program can help businesses of any size get more sales from customers you have already and attract a steady stream of new customers to keep your online store growing. So what are you waiting for? Start a Loyalty Program of your own today!